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Harry Dean Stanton,
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F. Murray Abraham
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In New Orleans, a young woman named Muriel goes missing. Her sister, Amelia, arrives to look for her. Aided by her aunt's lover, an ex-CIA agent named Bill, Amelia finds evidence on Muriel's computer of conversations with a mysterious and philosophical man. Bill and Amelia's search for him is fitful, but we learn that he's Eddie, a local exterminator who wants to produce and direct a movie about Nicholas Tesla. We follow Eddie, full of schemes, and we meet his brother, Tom, a firefighter who may know something about the death of a man whose widow, Hannah, seeks him out. What has happened to Muriel? Is this a world where anything can be known? Written by
I loved this movie, but I can see how a lot of people would find it unfulfilling, if not disappointing. It doesn't have a wow-bam plot like we've come to expect from Hollywood films. It leads you to expect one, but instead it pulls a fast one and leaves you with a complex message much deeper than the story.
If you're a fan of the European masters Wim Wenders ("Lisbon Story"), Krzysztof Kieślowski ("The Double Life of Veronique"), or even some works of Robert Altman ("Short Cuts"), then you'll really like this. I'll even throw in Vincent Gallo ("Brown Bunny"), Darren Aronofsky ("Pi") and Rebecca Miller ("Angela") as similar directors.
If you don't know any of them, don't worry. The point is that this film, like the ones mentioned above, draws us in with a tantalizing plot (a young girl's searches for her missing sister within the surreal world of cyber chatrooms and New Orleans) but quickly diverges to a much broader message. Obviously I won't ruin that message for you because it is revealed only in the last few seconds, and very subtly at that.
But in essence, this is a film made up of fragments of different people's lives. The characters barely overlap, so you have to pay attention to several simultaneous subplots or you may get lost. What you should focus on, while watching the movie, is what these people have in common and how their parallel stories intersect.
The whole movie has the appearance of a dream. The director uses bizarre effects to detach us from reality, and that helps ease us into the cryptic fragments that are thrown at us, much the same way that your subconscious mind may throw fragments while you're sleeping. The dialogue is very poetic and meaningful, with references to great dreamers like Nikola Tesla, Blaise Pascal, and a few funk music gurus. I'm not familiar with New Orleans, but there seems to be a lot of home-grown history in this film, and not just the ritzy French Quarter stuff.
I watched this film mainly to see Liane Balaban (a.k.a. Moonie Potty from the hilarious "New Waterford Girl"). She delivers a good performance, but I think David Arquette steals the show as the part-nerdy, part-creepy character who seems to be hiding a dark secret. Clarance Williams is a great match for Liane, playing her offbeat detective partner. And Karl Geary does a charismatic job, dropping his Irish twang for a Cajun drawl.
See this movie if you're into odd art films like the ones I mentioned above. Even if you're not, give it a try. Just expect to be led into a puzzle whose solution doesn't necessarily have much to do with the plot. This is a film you'd probably want to see twice.
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